UPDATE 3-Naspers warns of hit from higher licensing costs
* H1 core headline EPS 860 cents vs 648 cents
* EPS up 33 pct vs company forecast for 25-35 pct growth
* Revenue 15.8 billion rand vs 13.5 billion
* Shares down 3 pct vs 1.6 percent market decline
* Shares up 22 pct this year, vs 9 pct rise in index
(Adds link to graphics, executive comments)
By Gugulakhe Lourie
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Emerging markets media group Naspers (NPNJn.J) warned that higher costs of sports licensing could hit its full-year earnings, as increased competition in pay television puts pressure on the fast-growing South African firm.
Naspers, which on Tuesday posted a 33 percent rise in core headline earnings in the first half to 860 cents per share, flagged that the rapid pace of growth in its biggest business may not be sustainable.
While other media companies have been battered by the recession and a decline in traditional advertising revenue, Naspers has thrived due to investments in pay television and internet companies, particularly in fast-growing emerging markets.
The company said profit in the year to end-March could be hit by the rising cost of sport on pay TV, as well as increased development costs. Naspers' television unit, Multichoice, has the rights to broadcast English Premier League soccer in South Africa.
"The pay television side delivered very strong (subscriber) numbers, which have a bit of FIFA 2010 World Cup effect there, and that growth rate is not sustainable in a long term," said Kevin Mattison, a media analyst at Cape Town-based Avior Research. <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
For a graphic on Naspers earnings click on:
Naspers shares closed 3.02 percent lower at 374 rand compared with a 1.59 percent decline in the blue-chip Top-40 index .JTOPI.
The South Africa-based group owns a 29 percent stake in Russia's Mail.ru (MAILRq.L), now worth $2 billion after the internet firm listed on the London Stock Exchange earlier this month. It also owns a 30 percent of Tencent (0700.HK), the world's largest internet firm by market value.
SEES VALUE IN ALLEGRO
Naspers aims to replicate the success of Tencent and Mail.ru in other markets.
"I think Allegro has reached about such a point (where the market can see value)," Naspers' Chief Executive Officer Koos Bekker, said during a conference call.
E-commerce business Allegro operates across Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Serbia.
"It is a leader in Poland. There is depth in it. It's not just a one trick pony," he said.
Bekker added that Naspers would spend some time bedding down its acqusitions.
During the period the group reported impairments of goodwill and intangible assets of 531 million rand, mainly at Polish instant messaging firm Gadu-Gadu which it owns outright.
"We have taken a decision to write it down to start from a cleanish slate," said Antonie Roux, chief executive of the group's Internet operations.
Naspers said revenue rose 18 percent to 15.8 billion rand ($2.22 billion) in the six months to end-September, of which 10.2 billion was contributed by pay television service Multichoice.
The service added 498,000 new customers due to the soccer World Cup, bringing its total subscribers to 4.4 million.
The internet business grew its revenue by 54 percent to 5.5 billion rand, boosted by the contribution of Tencent and Mail.ru. (Editing by David Cowell)
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